If I Should Die Before I Wake

by Han Nolan

Book, 1994



Call number

J 736 NOL



San Diego : Harcourt Brace, c1994.


As Hilary, a Neo-Nazi initiate, lies in a coma, she is transported back to Poland at the onset of World War II into the life of a Jewish teenager.

User reviews

LibraryThing member smg626
The main idea of the story (Chana telepathically communicating with Hilary) is not clear until well into the book. The story fluctuates between today with a young Neo-Nazi teenager lying in a coma in a hospital, and the lifetime of a young Jewish girl in Poland during WW II). It is not until almost
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the end where you realize Chana, now an old woman, is in the same hospital as young Hilary. Yes it's fiction, but not "real" enough as the idea of teleporting your memories to someone else. I enjoyed reading Chana's story, but felt the way Hilary was transformed was unbelieveable.
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LibraryThing member lrobe190

Very innovative way to tell a story about the Holocaust. Well-written. One of my favorite YA books.
LibraryThing member spacecat77
Well written, balanced characters, shows teen angst,
LibraryThing member Ziaria
I have to say I really enjoyed this book. Han does a great job at weaving a tale. I will admit at times the story seemed a bit rushed, but it didn't deter me too much. I like how he gave us a glimpse of Hilary's life before the accident and then slowly showed her evolving through Chana's memories
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rushing and playing in her mind while in the coma.

The book gave the reader a glimpse of life for a Jewish person in the concentration camps. Han wasn't too graphic in his telling but on the same note, he didn't sugar coat how life was there either. I liked that about the book.
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LibraryThing member evilgir
I loved this book. True that it has a low reading level compared to my other books but I loved it. It showed the different view and feelings for the Hollicost. It is a great book for book reports for grades 4-9 also
LibraryThing member mrsdwilliams
Hilary Burke hates Jews and joins a local group of neo-Nazis. An accident leaves her in a coma in, of all places, a Jewish hospital. While sharing a room with Chana, an old woman who survived the Holocaust, Hilary somehow becomes linked with Chana's memories and finds out about what it was like to
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be Jewish during WWII.

Not Nolan's finest novel, but readers interested in this period in history will be riveted.
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LibraryThing member aimless22
An intriguing premise drew me to this novel. The back cover reads in part, "Sixteen-year-old Hilary Burke hates Jews. As part of a neo-Nazi gang in her town, she's finally found a sense of belonging. But then she is critically injured . . . finds herself bombarded by memories of a life in Poland -
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she becomes Chana, a girl whose family is forced from their home by the Nazis. . ." The juxtaposition of Hilary's present and Chana's past in one consciousness is the key to this novel.
A different kind of coming-of-age story, Hilary 'lives' the life of a person she claims to hate based only on religion.
Only a couple of things that bothered me - why is she in a Jewish Hospital and why is her mother quoting the bible so much? The mother's reasons for quoting scripture is explained in part, but not quite enough for this reader. The Jewish hospital is the real curiosity - is that the only hospital in the town? Is it the only one with the life-sustaining equipment and personnel needed?
Beyond those two nagging questions that I had, the novel was gripping and thought-provoking. Although a fictional story, the novel serves as a good introduction to the horrors of the Holocaust for young readers. Perhaps followed up by the truth of Anne Frank's diary, a young girl in today's world could learn from both the fictional characters and the real ones.
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LibraryThing member mirrani
For some reason, I expected this book to be more about Hillary and less about Chana. I felt a little left out of Hillary’s story, the life of a neo-Nazi. We learn snips of her life, parts of her past, but never really see the whole picture and while I certainly recognize the need to tell
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Chana’s story of being a Jew during WWII, I felt as if leaving Hillary out of the book so often made her sudden change from hateful to kindhearted a little sudden and somewhat unbelievable. I doubted that someone with that much hate in their heart could simply be shown the life of a person they hate and suddenly repent and heal deep down in their soul.

This is not to say that I disliked the book. I enjoyed reading every page and easily found myself within Chana’s life, experiencing her struggles and heartaches. So many things were done in the war and it is important o remember them. IF I Should Die Before I Wake is a good book for remembering all of what happened. It manages to put every stage of life for the Jews into 293 pages, from wearing the star and walking the streets freely to leaving for the ghetto, to finally being in the camps. Inside the camp it shows all the ways of life most people have heard of, the struggle for survival, the fear of the gas chamber, illness and inner strength. The reader also gets to glimpse the selection of workers and the kinds of mostly meaningless jobs they were sent to. One of the most interesting features in the telling of this story was the ability to see how the Germans worked people against each other to bring them down, putting one person against another so that even a friend could betray you. It was something I had rarely experienced in any form of Holocaust retelling and having experienced it now, I am surprised that it could have been left out so often elsewhere. We often see how Germans treated Jews, but not how they made Jews treat each other. It brought another dimension to a very human story of remembrance.
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LibraryThing member Anya_Rose
Let me begin with, you should definitely read this book.
I started this book and could have devoured it all in one sitting but I stopped halfway through because I was worried I'd get nightmares! Brilliantly written, it was a very good description of what life would have been like for a Jewish person
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in concentration camps, as Chana saw a lot, from Lodz ghetto to Auschwitz, and you really felt the fear and the sadness with Hilary and Chana. It was a little disturbing, while not graphic, but NOTHING was sugarcoated. As testament to just how moving parts of this book is, I am not one to cry while reading books and watching movies, but this book had me in tears at the loss of two particular family members (at once).
Anyone and everyone should read this book, one of the best I've ever read.
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LibraryThing member ReadersCandyb
If you love reading about World War 2 then you most definitely need to read this one! It was a story about two girls that were connected in a significant way, but neither knew it until the very end. One was in a coma and the other was at a working camp. They face their own battles, but lean on one
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another to escape the darkness. There was guilt... There was hope... There was weakness and there was courage like no other...

If I Should Die Before I Wake was an intense story with graphic, painful moments that brought an abundance of feels. I literally got sick to my stomach while I was reading. The vivid scenes and the heart wrenching deaths pulled me right into the pages. I felt for Chana and wanted to be the one to guide her through the dark times. No matter how weak her body and mind were she always pushed through. She helped others and in the end found that faith was her guidance. Hilary was a tough character for me. She was unlikeable from the beginning, but grew on me as the bitterness faded. The more her life blended with Chana the more she changed for the better. By the end I felt just as connected to her.

Overall, I was blown away by the history within the words. The Author made it easy for us to imagine what each character was going through and it really messed with my thoughts. I could feel my moods change with the pages. It was really an all consuming read that opened my eyes to just what took place at Auschwitz.

I definitely recommend it to all the history buffs or just someone looking for a unique story with a vivid realness to it.
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LibraryThing member pokarekareana
I wrote elsewhere about the dangers of fictionalising the Holocaust, but I think Nolan started to make a really good impression here. It tells the tale of Hilary, a teenage girl who has become involved with a neo-Nazi organisation. Injured in a road accident, she finds herself in a Jewish hospital,
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slipping in and out of consciousness. In her unconscious state, she relives the Holocaust experiences of Chana, a teenage Jewish girl in Poland.

This stands out as a cautionary tale for those tempted to follow others in adopting bigoted racist attitudes, and I’d hope that it would encourage its intended YA readership to question and challenge such ideas. The juxtaposition of the modern day and the historic past probably serve to make it more accessible for its intended audience.

Some elements of the story seemed contrived, even unnecessary; there’s a strong Christian overtone and while I appreciate that this reflects the author’s own background, it added nothing to the story that Hilary’s mother is a born-again Christian. I think I would have liked a deeper exploration of Hilary’s background because it was clear that her anti-Semitic attitudes had been strongly influenced by both her boyfriend and the death of her father. This book would be a great tool for teaching young people about the Holocaust, and also as a starting point for discussing racism and other forms of prejudice.
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